Mark – God is On Our Side!
There are all kinds of surveys in the world that ask questions based on specific information surveyors are looking to find. . Some surveys ask questions in a way only to verify what the marketing surveyor is wanting to validate in the product they are selling. Some surveys want to find out about you and what you would be willing to buy based on your answers. Some surveys merely want your personal information. (So be careful with those “fun” activities on Facebook, friends!)
Some surveys are just silly and make for worldly entertainment…like the Family Feud game show. But ALL surveys are looking for human answers to their very human questions. George Barna, a believer who is a statistician, surveyed the American church in an effort to understand the level of belief among born again attenders. The results would blow you away! (Read “Think Like Jesus” for some of the results.)
But we are a bit surprised when the Son of God, Jesus Christ takes a survey among his disciples as they are walking along the countryside…“Who do people say I am?”
Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”
29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
After the survey, Jesus then gets very personal with His devoted followers…“Who do YOU say I am?” PAUSE. Camp on this question and imagine Jesus standing in front of you asking you this same question.
Now, let’s get some background on this passage to help us understand more about why the question was asked so that more information could be given to them with real understanding.
A secret has been defined as “something you tell one person at a time.” From time to time, Jesus shared special “secrets” with His disciples, and three of them are given here. Believers today need to understand and apply these spiritual secrets if their own lives are to be all that God wants them to be.
Jesus had been preparing His disciples for this private meeting at which He intended to reveal to them what would happen to Him at Jerusalem. He had given hints along the way, but now He would explain matters to them more fully. For the site, He selected Caesarea Philippi, a town about twenty-five miles north of Bethsaida, sitting at the foot of beautiful Mount Hermon. The town was named after Augustus Caesar and Herod Philip, and it contained a marble temple dedicated to Augustus. It was a place dedicated to the glory of Rome, and that glory is now gone, but the glory of Jesus Christ remains and will go on eternally.
If you were to go around asking your friends, “What do people say about me?” they would take it as an evidence of pride. What difference does it really make what people think or say about us? We are not that important! But what people believe and say about Jesus Christ is important, for He is the Son of God and the only Savior of sinners.
It is remarkable the number of different opinions the people held about Jesus, though the same situation probably exists today. That some thought He was John the Baptist is especially perplexing, since John and Jesus had been seen publicly together. They were quite different in personality and ministry(Matt. 11:16–19), so it seems strange that the people would confuse them.
Some said that Jesus was one of the prophets, perhaps Jeremiah (Matt. 16:14). Jeremiah was “the weeping prophet,” and Jesus was a Man of Sorrows, so there is a definite parallel. Jeremiah called the people to true repentance from the heart, and so did Jesus.
In His words and His works, Jesus gave every evidence to the people that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, and yet they did not get the message. Instead of diligently seeking for the truth, the people listened to popular opinion and followed it, just as many people do today. They had opinions instead of convictions, and this is what led them astray.
Peter’s confession was bold and uncompromising, just as ours should be: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). The word Christ means “the Anointed One, the promised Messiah.”
Why did Jesus warn them to keep quiet about Him? For one thing, the disciples themselves still had much to learn about Him and what it truly meant to follow Him. The religious leaders of the nation had already made up their minds about Him, and to proclaim Him as Messiah now would only upset God’s plans. The common people wanted to see His miracles, but they had little desire to submit to His message. To announce Him as Messiah might well result in a political uprising that would only do harm.
Now that they had confessed their faith in Christ (but see John 6:66–71), the disciples were ready for the “secret” Jesus wanted to share with them: He was going with them to Jerusalem, where He would die on a cross. From this point on, Mark will focus on their journey to Jerusalem, and the emphasis will be on Jesus’ approaching death and resurrection (Mark 9:30–32; 10:32–34).
This announcement stunned the disciples. If He is indeed the Christ of God, as they had confessed, then why would He be rejected by the religious leaders? Why would these leaders crucify Him? Did not the Old Testament Scriptures promise that Messiah would defeat all their enemies and establish a glorious kingdom for Israel? There was something wrong somewhere and the disciples were confused.
True to character, it was Peter who expressed their concern. One minute Peter was led by God to confess his faith in Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:17), and the next minute he was thinking like an unbelieving man and expressing the thoughts of Satan! This is a warning to us that when we argue with God’s Word, we open the door for Satan’s lies. Peter began rebuking his Master, and Mark used the same word that describes our Lord’s rebuking of the demons (Mark 1:25; 3:12).
Peter’s protest was born out of his ignorance of God’s will and his deep love for his Lord. One minute Peter was a “rock,” and the next minute he was a stumbling block! Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said, “The man who loves Jesus, but who shuns God’s method, is a stumbling block to Him.” Peter did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory. He would eventually learn this lesson and would even emphasize it in his first epistle (note 1 Peter 1:6–8; 4:13—5:10).
Note, however, that when Jesus rebuked Peter, He also “looked on his disciples,” because they agreed with Peter’s assessment of the situation! Steeped in Jewish traditional interpretation, they were unable to understand how their Messiah could ever suffer and die. To be sure, some of the prophets had written about Messiah’s sufferings, but much more had been written about Messiah’s glory. Some of the rabbis even taught that there would be two Messiahs, one who would suffer and one who would reign (see 1 Peter 1:10–12). No wonder the disciples were confused.
But the problem was more than theological; it was very practical. Jesus had called these men to follow Him, and they knew that whatever happened to Him would happen to them. If there was a cross in His future, there would be one in their future as well. That would be reason enough to disagree with Him! In spite of their devotion to Him, the disciples were still ignorant of the true relationship between the cross and the
crown. They were following Satan’s philosophy (glory without suffering) instead of God’s philosophy (suffering transformed into glory).
Which philosophy we accept will determine how we live and how we serve.
Jesus still asks us today, “Who do YOU say I AM? PAUSE, PRAY, ANSWER.
Mark 8:34 indicates that, though Jesus and His disciples had met in private, the crowds were not far away. Jesus summoned the people and taught them what He taught His own disciples: there is a price to pay for true discipleship. He knew that the crowds were following Him only because of the miracles, and that most of the people were unwilling to pay the price to become true disciples.
Jesus laid down three conditions for true discipleship:
(1) we must surrender ourselves completely to Him;
(2) we must identify with Him in suffering and death;
(3) we must follow Him obediently, wherever He leads. If we live for ourselves, we will lose ourselves, but if we lose ourselves for His sake and the gospel’s, we will find ourselves.
Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey His will. This once-for-all dedication is followed by a daily “dying to self” as we take up the cross and follow Him. From the human point of view, we are losing ourselves, but from the divine perspective, we are finding ourselves. When we live for Christ, we become more like Him, and this brings out our own unique individuality.
The motivation for true discipleship: “for my sake and the gospel’s” (Mark 8:35). To lose yourself is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. But we do not stop there: personal devotion should lead to practical duty, the sharing of the gospel with a lost world. “For my sake” could lead to selfish religious isolationism, so it must be balanced with “and the gospel’s.” Because we live for Him, we live for others.
Discipleship is a matter of profit and loss, a question of whether we will waste our lives or invest our lives.
Whew, as you can read, there is a lot to learn from Mark’s penning of the bottom line Truth of devoted followership of Jesus. We need to ask ourselves daily, “Who do YOU say I am” as a personal assessment of our belief, behaviors, motivation, intention and declaration of Who is sincerely in control of our lives. (Pray Romans 12! It helps me!)
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
Here I am. Speak to my heart all day long and into the night. Cleanse me. Fill me. Use me. You are God and i am not.